Sept. 28, 2007
VILLANOVA, Pa. - It took every bit of the team's usual sterling defensive effort to remain undefeated on the season and on Friday afternoon Villanova (7-0-3, 1-0-1 Big East) played to a scoreless tie at home against No. 24 Rutgers (5-3-1, 0-1-1 Big East) at the West Campus Soccer Complex. The Wildcats have now begun the season with a 10-game unbeaten streak for the second time in as many seasons, marking the only such streaks in program history. Last season the team began the year with a 15-game unbeaten streak (13-0-2) and wound up 16-4-2 overall.
The two teams have combined to allow just 10 goals all season long (just two by Villanova) and played to a draw for the second straight year. Villanova extended its current defensive scoreless streak to 436 minutes with its fourth consecutive shutout and eighth of the season. In the four-game stretch the Wildcats have allowed a total of just 15 shots on goal, all of which have been saved by senior goalkeeper Jillian Loyden (Vineland, N.J.).
Loyden made five saves and registered her 32nd career solo shutout to add to her school record in the category. Two of those saves came in the second and final overtime period to turn back the Scarlet Knights and maintain the scoreless tie. Loyden was not without help, as junior Laura Sylvester (Broomall, Pa.) and sophomore Kelly Eagan (St. James, N.Y.) stood out as the stars of Villanova's supreme defensive line. Both players cleared several Rutgers possessions away before a significant attack opportunity could develop, while Eagan also stepped up to play a role in the Wildcats attacking third.
"It was a great effort today between two phenomenal goalkeepers," Villanova head coach Ann Clifton said. "We tested them. I thought that Kelly Eagan was phenomenal today. She is improving and showing herself to be one of the top defenders around."
One of the best scoring opportunities of the game belonged to Villanova less than two minutes after halftime. Junior Erin Hardiman (Galloway, N.J.) sent a ball into the box to freshman Rachel Schuyler (Cheshire, Conn.), who got to the ball just ahead of Scarlet Knight goalkeeper Erin Guthrie. Schuyler fired a hard shot but Guthrie was able to block it with her body while out of the net. The ball caromed over the goal line and the Wildcats were awarded a corner kick, but a header by Villanova senior Nikki Mabery (Phoenix, Ariz.) on the ensuing kick was wide right.
"I thought we could have been more tenacious in the attacking third but we are continuing to work on that," Clifton said. "We had it in our last game against Penn and lost a little bit of that today. In the second half our midfield was outstanding. For a player of her size, you won't find anyone better on the East coast than Melissa Murowski. Also, Jessica Carnevale was excellent today and showed that she is on top of her game."
Guthrie produced four saves for Rutgers, including one on a shot from older sister Kaley Guthrie (Sparta, N.J.), who had two shots in the game for the Wildcats. The sisters were playing against each other for the second time in their collegiate careers.
Overall, Villanova owned a slim 12-11 edge in shots while the Scarlet Knights took six corner kicks (three in extra time) to five for the Wildcats. A clean game that gradually became more physical was called in favor of the defenders, with a total of 31 foul calls made in the game.
This afternoon's game marked the final home contest for Villanova for the next two weeks, as the Wildcats now prepare to play five straight road games between this Sunday and October 14. First up in that stretch is a match at Seton Hall on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.